Ethiopian Christians have the tradition of celebrating Epiphany, along with the Eastern Orthodox Christians, on January 19th (January 11 of Ethiopian Date). This day is specially revered that almost all routine activities are paused. People chant escorting the Ark of the Covenant to rivers and or waters to commemorate the Baptism of Jesus in the River of Jordan, the day devotedly symbolizing the most holy ones in their religion. On this day, as said, every activity is paused, the people sing, chant, cheer in their way of holy ways, feast and pray, along with immersing into waters in a highly ritualized performance. The celebration continues from January 11 of Ethiopia to 21 (with Archangel Michael’s, St. George’s, and St. Marry’s) celebration taking place on the days of 12th, 18th, and 21th, respectively.
On this most revered date of St. Michael, Jan 12 of Ethiopia, the Christians in Woldya, Northeastern Amhara gathered in the sacred space of St. Michael Church, and started to chant while escorting ceremonially toward the baptizing ritual place. As of tradition holds it, this day for the Christians of Woldya would not be different from any days celebrated in the past years. No one knew in the recent past history of the nation that “government” forces indiscriminately massacred on this most revered day. They were, above all, fully aware that this day has been celebrated with the utmost gathering of men and women, children and aged, nuns and monks, farmers and teachers, students and parents. As a matter of fact, therefore, this year’s day of Epiphany did not have any reason to be of different from the past days. Just it is that people of all sort come together and celebrate it, commemorating renewal of their Christianization with their Lord. They know this day brings all of the people, including people of opposing views, when it comes to politics. In the culture of the people, that is an earthly affair which is not dealt on that revered day, whence people communicate with the heavenly ruler. It was with this in mind that the people of Woldya went out and got together around the Ark of the Covenant in the name of Archangel Michael. They dedicated that day for the Lord who they believe rules the heavens, and it is not in any way a day to deal with an earthly affair, political views, above all, being the least of concern.
But this was only a matter of the people. The anti-Amhara ruling junta, socialized in the mindset of Tigrian nationalism which is cultivated in the hatred of ethnic Amhara, no matter how they also have a word to say they share same Christian doctrine, did not maintain the view the Woldya Christians had. This day was instead a predatory day in the mind of the ruling junta. They had in mind that this day is preferable to indiscriminately mow down as many Amhara as they can, the ethnic group whom they are taught to hate with their utmost soul and energy.
The forces of the ruling junta did what all people across the nation failed to even recognize. The news of the action of firing live bullets at the crowd, killing 21 and wounding 200 more, came to defy the thought processes of many. That just did not happen in the history of the 16 centuries old Christian Church. And it happened to be natural to face cognitive failure while processing such horrific information in its kind. The people, disoriented in understanding and explaining it, have chosen to deeply cry. It is believed they will continue in doing so until they get the proper linguistic and cognitive matches to explain this tragic event.
However challenging to cope with this, especially for the people of Amhara, who have been targeted for so long, it is no different day for the ruling junta. Killing has been their business from the onset. This time, however, massacred Christians under the tent of God. But for Christians in general and ethnic Amhara in particular, this day marked a different spot. Just something happened that never happened in the history of Ethiopian Christian Church. While the news is traumatic to those who lost their family members and the Amhara Christians as a whole, the propaganda machines of the ruling junta did not mention any of that so far. To them it is business as usual.
Our condolences to All Christians in the land who saw the horrific genocidal act!
#U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa